Interview with alternative localhotdad, iVANA
iVANA is a young emerging artist from Brooklyn, New York. Inspired by Santigold and House/Techno music, she has been cultivating a signature sound for herself consisting mainly of indie and alternative sonics. Her most popular singles, “lovely to meet you” and “Daydream” happen to be the songs that are a manifestation of iVANA’s creative ethos.
Her passion for music is boundless as her work exceeds her own personal rendering, but also serves as an inspiration to others like her. Eclectic in every sense of the word, her style and interests are contrary to that of the popular narrative of black women in music; her existence in the sphere of alternative music is radical in of itself as she wishes to defy racial boundaries with this work. We sat down to discuss more of her artistic process, pursuits, and present the Half Moon audience with more of an intel about who iVANA is. We took a look into her story, style, artistry, and future.
** All photos by Grace Manley **
Growing up in the opposing environments of New York City and the Poconos, Pennsylvania, iVANA has had multiple sources of inspiration for her art.
How does both the Poconos and New York City become very inspirational to your music in some ways?
Jacob Smith for Half Moon
Yeah. So I was definitely very online when I was younger.
Haha yeah. Not only when I was young, like to this day! But Tumblr is definitely the biggest thing that really catapulted me into the arts and who I am today. I was like, let me just try it all. I tried painting. Can't do that. Photography. Really like that. But I was like, I don't really feel like I want to be a photographer. But then music. I listened to a lot of rock, indie and stuff and just tried to kind of come to New York as much as I could, and go to these shows and events and be immersed in that collective of people all the time.
The iVANA that you can see performing at venues such as Mercury Lounge is not the same artist that she once was when she began her journey with music.
I read that you had a different venture with music before this one with a different [stage] name. I was wondering how that first venture with music brought you to today? Did it give you a new footing or more support before this [current venture] reemerging out as iVANA?
It was nice when I first started…I always wanted to make music, but I didn’t know how to start. My old [artist] name was my first name and last name, Ivana Gia. And I didn't really like it…I was making completely different music back then. It was kind of soul-ish and r&b… And a part of me too was like “I like this sound,” but I always knew I wanted to do like “indie alternative.”... I just felt like that's just so much more of who I am. I can actually really relate and connect to that music. And I've always wanted to be in that scene and meet some of my favorite bands to like work with them.
And so you felt like it overall, you just needed to rebrand entirely. And it feels more authentic to you?
Yeah. I remember I will never forget the rebrand. I wanted to change. My Instagram was just my first and last name at first. And I was like, I need something that was just like really stand out. And I don't know, just like it's a little different. So I rebranded myself as @localhotdad.
Who is iVANA as an artist? Is lowercase “i” iVANA, different from the person (yourself)? Is the artist separate from the self?
I feel like it's the same. Yeah, I just dropped my last name. And I feel like all of the lyrics to my music that I have out, are related to stuff that's happened to me, in my life. I mean most artists can say that too. But I don’t want to feel disconnected from my music, I want it to be me. And not just like a part of me. I want my music to show my personality and who I am.
iVANA has a bigger mission when it comes to her music as well. She has made it apparent that mending the relationship between race and music; more specifically, the dynamics of her race as a black person and the genres of alternative/indie music is something that is important to her.
My biggest thing right now is trying to pave the way in this predominantly white genre of music. You rarely see any black people in it. So I want to say we do have a voice and we are equally as good. Even more. Even better. That's why I always say Santigold, I always refer to her when they're like, “who's your biggest influence,?”... and I'm like Santigold, for life. Like she really made a name for herself. And it's stuck, she's known.
I read online, how you said that your music defies racial boundaries. What do you mean by that? Racial boundaries in terms of music and what's conventional?
Yeah. Because I've gotten a lot of positive feedback, and negative feedback back and I'm just like, sometimes I feel like the negative feedback is kind of biased. And I'm just like I see the other people that you're posting. Music is subjective, obviously, but I'm like, why does your roster have no people of color, let alone black people, on it, ever? So I feel like they're just so much harsher when it comes to critiquing my music.
I’m glad you mentioned this because I wanted to ask you if you feel like a lot of people have this expectation of sound from you, and once they hear your music, it’s shocking?
Yeah, it's crazy. Like, I remember I got booked for a show that I eventually dropped, because I was like, these people who booked me definitely did not listen to my music. Because I swear I think they thought I was like an r&b artist or rapper, because the entire bill was all black, but they were all rappers. And then it was me. And it was white people who ran the show. It was so random. And it's happened a lot. Oh my god, I had like, even a write up too once. They were like “this R&B artist iVANA…” And I was like, "R&B? Girl you did not listen to the songs because this is not R&B.” What about me gave R&B Like, yeah, I listen to it. But just because I'm black does not mean I only make that style of music.
iVANA’s music feels like a cacophony of familiar sounds that produces something refreshing, which I feel like most audiences that enjoy this genre of music would appreciate. Her vocalization is varied and dynamic, producing a unique and ethereal/euphoric world to get lost in.
Your songs “Daydream” and “YO-YO” are featuring an artist, Brodie Harvey, and I was wondering, is this person a big collaborator of yours or someone that you work closely with? And I just want to hear more about your process.
Yeah, so that is my boyfriend's slash producer. He helps me make most of my music and mixes it and masters it. I would say my best songs are daydream and lovely to meet you. I love “Daydream” and “Lovely to meet you” because both those songs happened on a whim when we were at the studio, literally both times separate dates at like one AM after partying. And we were like, okay, let's just make one more song. I did “Daydream” in one take and I did “Lovely to Meet You” in one take… And then that was it.
Would you say that your best songs are your favorite?
Yes I would! I was so shocked when I heard “Lovely to Meet You” back [after being mastered] the first time. I was like, wow, this is literally the exact type of music I want to make! The songs in between Daydream and “ Lovely to Meet You” were kind of just experimental. “Lovely To Meet You” is the direction I'm definitely moving in right now.
I had also read somewhere that a lot of your music lyrically, or even sonically is inspired by your childhood or your inner child. I feel like I see that a lot with the songs “Can’t” and “YO-YO”
Yeah, so I always write about this a lot, saying how my music does heal my inner child. Actually “YO-YO” and “Can’t” are perfect examples of two songs really helping me. “YO-YO” is just so playful. And it just makes me happy. Because I am a very playful person. And I talk about doing things that I didn't really get to do when I was like a child or whatever growing up in a more strict household. When I was making it, I literally cried at the studio, because the song is just like, honestly, for me. Even though I released it, it’s for myself.
And with “Can’t” I feel like I have this consistent theme in my songs where I'm just like, I can't like, be that friend that you like, imagine me to be, you're just like, I need my alone time. And I really just want you to understand that. Because like, if I spend too much time with people, I feel like it's taking away from…not like who I am, but I just need time to like reset and refresh. And so I love spending alone time with myself to like, meditate, journal, like, just chill.
I love your clothing style. Do you feel like your personal style is an extension of your music? Do you feel like your artist style is a “persona type of thing” or more simply organic and fluid in the way you choose to present or create?
Yeah if you scroll deep in my Instagram account. I’ve always been like this. Ever since I figured out who I want to be, I have been extra since that day because I like to stand out! Whatever color my hair is, my entire closet is that color. Right now with the red hair, my closet is a lot of blacks, whites, reds, to match my hair. I’ve always been the same person, just elevated.
Which spaces inspire you the most in New York City to write and create your songs?
The studio I make music in. It is Brodie’s. He shares the actual music part of it with two other people. And then it's also like a fashion studio for his friend Keith, who runs Advisry(clothing brand). So it's like, black as fuck. And it's so nice. The people who come through all the time, like our friends from Atlanta just came by, they're on tour. Every time you're going to the studio you will make a song. And it's always going to be a good time. And people will just show up too, like, you don't even know who's going to be there when you pull up. And it's just really nice, because it's like a little collective of people.
How often do you go?
I’d say like at least once a week I try to go there and make some music.
Would you say you have a specific audience you speak to, or is your music more of an expression that comes through you as necessary and is just an outlet…if people listen and love it, then that’s awesome, type thing? Or is it something where you feel like you have a specific audience you speak to?
Kind of a bit of both, but especially the side where I put it out there and I hope people would love it. But I also want for other little black people who are like me but maybe haven’t found their identity yet but know that they wanna be this type of person to know they can be different…I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood but I had a lot of black friends too and they’d make fun of me and say your music tastes is weird and I’m like no girl my music taste is unique. I want to inspire a lot of black kids and have them feel comfortable to be themselves. I would have loved to see someone like me when I was younger.
What’s next for iVANA?
I have some songs I want to release soon including one with an artist named Mercury. I love to perform and have a couple of upcoming shows in the near future.
You can keep up with iVANA on Instagram and Tik Tok @localhotdad and on Spotify @iVANA. Look out for an upcoming single titled “Askin’ 2 Much,” projected to release at the end of the month. Additionally, iVANA will be bringing her talents LIVE to Brooklyn at Heart Bar on September 24th.